‘Sure Look Good To Me . . .’

As we put together an alternate version of Joe Cocker’s second album – the 1969 release Joe Cocker! – there are a few tracks where our choices for an alternate version will be limited.

That’s not the case with the third track on the album, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” Covers of the tune have been coming out of studios fairly regularly since Lloyd Price wrote and recorded the song in 1952. Released on the Los Angeles-based Specialty label and credited to Lloyd Price & His Orchestra, the record went to No. 1 on two of the three R&B charts tracked at the time by Billboard. It was No. 1 for one week on the Most Played In Juke Boxes chart and for seven weeks on the Best Sellers In Stores charts.

And after that came the covers. Second Hand Songs doesn’t have all of them, but it lists seventy-six covers, starting with Elvis Presley’s 1956 version, which was on his first, self-titled album, and ending with two versions released in 2011: One by the Hucklebucks on the album Juke Box Blues and the other by the venerable P.J. Proby on his self-released album One Night of Elvis – One Hour With Proby.

Along with Price’s original and Joe Cocker’s cover, there are three other versions on the digital shelves here in the EITW studios: Elvis’ version from 1956, Johnny River’s take on the tune from his 1964 album At The Whisky á Go-Go and Paul McCartney’s cover from his Cнова в CCCP album, originally released exclusively in the Soviet Union in 1988. Of those three, I prefer Presley’s take; McCartney’s version sounds like an Elvis impression, and Rivers’ version seems a little flat.

Moving beyond the slender pickings here, two versions of the tune have made the Billboard Hot 100: Gary Stites’ fairly bland cover went to No. 47 in 1960, and the Buckinghams got to No. 41 with a cover that raced ahead about 40 percent faster than any other version I’ve heard. (In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn lists the Buckinghams’ version as “Laudy Miss Claudy,” noting that some pressings used the correct spelling.)

A number of the other versions on the list at Second Hand Songs (which did not yet list Stites’ version) sparked some interest. Little Richard’s cover from his 1964 album Little Richard Is Back (And There’s a Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On) barrels along like a classic Penniman side. Larry Williams released a 1959 cover that’s okay but doesn’t add a whole lot to the versions that came before. The same goes for a couple of covers by British groups: The Swingin’ Blue Jeans in 1964 and the Hollies in 1965.

Later covers came from Sandy Nelson (1967), Ronnie Hawkins, the Nashville Teens and Ike Turner (all 1972), Bill Haley & The Comets (1973), Conway Twitty and Fats Domino (both 1974) and on and on through Travis Tritt (1994), Cliff Richard & The Drifters (1997) and Noel Redding With 3:05 A.M. (2003) with more to follow.

I haven’t listened to all of those – and some I only sampled at Amazon – but I liked (unsurprisingly) the Tritt and Domino versions, and a few seconds of Redding’s version was enough. Nothing much else – and I’ve listened to at least a bit of about twenty-five versions of the tune – made an impression. (And I should note that I got a little weary of the many, many times that covers of the song began with the triplet-rich piano introduction created for Price’s 1952 original by Domino.)

It came down to two versions of the song for our remake of Cocker’s album: Either Price’s original or Tritt’s 1994 cover from the Elvis tribute It’s Now Or Never. And I went with Tritt.

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